Honey bee approaching willow catkin

How much does it cost to start beekeeping?

This question comes up quite often on our Beekeeping Course and it’s quite difficult to answer without making a list. There is much more choice of equipment available now with bargains to be had, but even then – it’s not cheap so be warned.

However something else to throw into the equation is that if you do take up beekeeping there should eventually be a payback in terms of honey which you can then either consume yourself or you can sell it. So an interesting way to consider the cost of starting up beekeeping is in jars of honey instead of euro.

The results of this exercise for 2009 and 2016 are shown in the table below where:

  • Costs of the essential items of beekeeping equipment are shown in euro and in jars of honey;
  • In 2009 the average price of a 1lb jar of Irish honey was €5. In 2016 the price is more like €7 or more for something like heather or hawthorn;
  • The prices you see here are not for the cheapest equipment on the market so if you are prepared to shop around you could pay substantially less than this. However, remember – what they say ‘buy cheap, buy twice’;
  • A Sheriff bee suit is not cheap but the design and the materials are top notch and it will last you for at least 5 years. If you have an accident and torch your veil you can phone them and talk to a human and they’ll sell you a replacement. Not an option if your suit comes from somewhere far, far away;
  • Similarly – a grade 1 cedar hive from Thornes isn’t cheap but cedar is durable so you won’t need to treat it. All it needs is a bit of respect and it should last for 20 years;
  • Bees are best bought from your local beekeeper or beekeeping association. Never import bees or buy from someone who is importing bees – it might be bit cheaper but you might then be the person responsible for bringing in the next obnoxious bee disease;
  • The cheapest bees are swarms but there aren’t many of those about since someone imported Varroa with his or her bees.
Equipment 2009 2016
Approx Cost/€ Approx Cost/Jars honey at €5 Approx Cost/€ Approx Cost/Jars honey at €7
Full Sheriff Beesuit €140 28 €175 25
Marigold gloves €5 1 €2.5 0.4
Smoker €38 7.6 €25 3.6
Hive tool €12 2.4 €15 2.1
Guide to Bees & Honey by Ted Hooper €14.2 2.8 €17.2 2.5
Bees (6 frames) €60 12 €120 17
1 Thornes, Grade 1, Cedar National hive with brood box, 2 supers, frames, wax, floor, crownboard & roof. €350 70 €491 70
1 one gallon feeder €3 0.6 €5 0.7
Total €622.2 124 Jars €850.7 121 Jars

The totals are interesting. Beekeeping has become very popular lately so the costs of equipment and of bees have gone up quite a lot in euro €622.20 in 2009 compared to €850.70 in 2016.

However, the really interesting bit is when you look at the costs in jars of honey 124 jars in 2009 and 121 jars in 2016!

Not much difference is there?

That’s because local Irish honey has become a very much sought-after product. So sought after in fact the price of honey has risen faster than the price of equipment.

That said – you’ll never see a rich beekeeper.

Click here for Sheriff bee suits

Click here Thorne’s bee hives

Click here to find your local Beekeeper Association

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